Risingshadow has the honour of publishing a guest post by Seth Skorkowsky.
About Seth Skorkowsky:
Seth Skorkowsky is a writer that gravitates to the darker sides of fantasy, preferring horror and pulp heroes over knights in shining armor. He is the author of Dämoren and Hounacier, both titles in the Valducan series. Seth has also released two sword-and-sorcery collections in the Black Raven series, Mountain of Daggers and Sea of Quills. He lives in Flower Mound, Texas.
Seth Skorkowsky's lates novel, Ibenus, was published in September 2016.
Click here to visit his official website.
After surviving a demon attack, disgraced police detective Victoria Martin tracks down the Valducans in search for answers. Recognizing her potential, and despite the warnings of the other knights, Allan Havlock, protector of Ibenus, takes her in as his apprentice. As the Valducans travel to Paris to destroy a demon nest infesting the catacombs, the knights find themselves hunted by an Internet group intent on exposing them. Victoria, who belongs to this group, must desperately play both sides to not only protect herself, but Allan, whom she has begun to love. Ibenus, however, has other plans. Ibenus is the third book in the Valducan series, for which Skorkowsky was shortlisted as "Best Debut Author" in the 2014 Reddit Stabby Awards.
GUEST POST: Avoiding Aquaman and Eigen Plots by Seth Skorkowsky
My mother used to read the Hardy Boys to me when I was little. As I grew older, we began joking about how often the duo was in some dire situation, like being tied up as the villain escapes, but fortunately they happen to have recently finished a class in escaping ropes (my college didn't offer that course). It happened in almost every book.
That experience made me sensitive to the frequency in which stories conveniently fall in line with a character's abilities. One of the most famous cases is everyone's favorite wet hero - Aquaman. Aquaman has a very specific skill-set that requires he be in water or around aquatic creatures. He isn't much use when the Justice League storms that mountaintop stronghold, but then the arch-villain drops the heroes into a tank full of sharks with laser beams, and low-and-behold Aquaman uses his abilities to control the sharks and make them use their lasers to cut a hole for the heroes to escape.
Other times seemingly random things align so that Aquaman can be helpful. You'd think super-villains would stop making secret underwater strongholds after a while.
Another thing I noticed was Eigen plots. Those are stories where a group of heroes seems to always encounter situations that allow each and every member of the team to use a power or skill that's perfect for overcoming the obstacle. It's almost as if the villain tailored their evil plan the same way a D&D Dungeon Master makes an adventure so that everyone gets a chance to shine (and if my players are reading this, yes, I totally do that). That's exciting in a game, but not as much for a story.
In my Valducan series, the heroes each carry a magical weapon that grants a unique ability, sometimes more than one. I try to make each weapon power pretty cool and fairly useful. Unlike the Hardy Boys with their, "Surprise! We just happen to have learned how to pilot a helicopter last week," the powers are known to the reader in advance.
One character has a sword that if swiped through an enemy's shadow will harm the enemy. It's pretty cool and incredibly powerful, but the hitch is that you have to be near your opponent's shadow. It's a difficult task if you're the one holding the light and the shadows are now behind your enemies. Another character can teleport 4-5 feet when they swing their sword. The additional aspect is that it also eliminates momentum when they do. So, they could fall out of an airplane, and if they swung their sword in the last couple of feet before impact then they land as if having only fallen few feet. Obviously, this is not only useful, but handy for some cinematic fight scenes.
When writing my third Valducan novel, Ibenus, I used several characters with unique weapons (nine, in fact). The obstacles they face were not ones tailored specifically for their powers. While the characters make their strategies based off of what they could each do, not everyone gets to have their moment in the sun. The obstacle was the obstacle. Everyone has their gifts, but much like real life, not everyone gets to use their unique superpower to save the day.
When writing a story, authors feel the pressure to show their characters off. An editor once told me that, "Readers want to read about characters that are good at something and watch then do it well." That not only applies to your super cool Klingon warrior that somehow loses 80% of the fights he's in, but to every character with a great skill or magical ability. We want to see them succeed because they're the best.
But being the best at something or having a special ability should never mean that the character always has to save the day with it. They can try to alter the playing field in a way that allows them to use their power, but if they can't, the author should focus on how they deal with that and still overcome the problem. After all, readers want great characters. Some characters have cool abilities. But cool abilities alone do not make a great character.